As a kid, I could imagine becoming a lot of things when I grew up. The first natural choice was a nurse, because my mom was a nurse. Or I could become a teacher, because I just loved my third grade teacher (a great lady with whom I still keep in touch). Inspired by Christa McAuliffe in the mid-1980s, I convinced my parents to buy me a telescope so that I could study astronomy and eventually become an astronaut. Then there was the time I had plans to go to Harvard Law School and become a prosecutor. Oh, and the time I played Mrs. Sherwood in my middle school’s production of Fame!, which convinced me that I was going to go to Yale and become an Academy Award winning actress, just like Jodie Foster. By high school, I planned to study journalism, because I love to write… never mind that I never wrote for my school newspaper. The list goes on, not unlike most children, I suppose, whose dreams often change on a daily basis. Absent from my list, however, was housewife– perhaps because I didn’t think of being a housewife as a career or because it didn’t sound appealing to me. The idea of not working, of “finding” things to fill my days and pass the time just seemed so… unambitious? underachieving? 1950s? Yet here I am today, in Matamoros, Mexico, a housewife. It’s an odd balance of bittersweet- at times more sweet than bitter and at other times more bitter than sweet.
I moved to Matamoros knowing that my career options would be somewhat limited, and knowing that I would be a housewife at least in the beginning. The thought made me apprehensive- less about how to fill my time (I can always find something to do) and more about how guilty I would feel not “contributing”. I enjoyed the break from working immensely at first. I needed some time to adjust to my new surroundings and just figure out what’s what, and I had it.
There is a big part of me that thoroughly enjoys this unique time in my life and the freedom to choose what I want to do every day at a leisurely pace. I relish the fact that I can go grocery shopping on a Monday morning when there are no crowds, run for as long as I please, and take an hour (or three!) in the middle of the day and rest on the couch if I want to. It’s such a gift to be able to take things in stride, and do the things I enjoy every day, rather than trying to cram them into a weekend in between loads of laundry and running errands. My house is always clean there is always a freshly-made home-cooked meal to eat. I have had time to organize my home, start a garden, and cook and bake. I am taking a Spanish class and reading novels. In fact, when I think about it, I am doing many of the things that I always wanted to do but for which I never really had a lot of time because I always had to work.
Three months later, in spite of the joys of being a housewife, the novelty of living in Matamoros is starting to fade. In many ways, I am reminded of my time in Bulgaria with the Peace Corps. I remember one of our early training sessions shortly after we had arrived in Bulgaria, when we were provided a chart depicting the life-cycle of a Peace Corps Volunteer. It wasn’t meant to scare us; rather, to show us, realistically, what we could expect emotionally as we traversed our two-year term of service. The excitement we felt at the beginning would fade, they told us, within a couple of months of arriving at our assigned posts, once we really got a feel for life in our new environments. I found that to be true at that time, more than ten years ago, and it’s true again today.
Between the oppressive heat and humidity and the security restrictions on where we can safely travel, we are more or less relegated to being at either at work or at home most of the time. Even for a homebody like me, it can be a bit suffocating, no matter how many things I can find to do at home.
Aside from that, though, it’s hard not to feel somehow inferior, knowing the important work that happens all around me- the very reason we are here, in fact- and yet not be part of it. While my husband and his colleagues are issuing visas, protecting our borders, and ensuring the safety of U.S. citizens who have gotten themselves in trouble in Mexico, I am organizing our spice rack, doing laundry, and baking coffee cake. It feels so trivial in comparison, and so unlike anything I ever imagined myself doing at my age. It’s the part of being a housewife that is more bitter than sweet.
Fortunately, my open-ended days are numbered, as I will be starting a part-time job teaching seventh grade language arts at an English immersion school here in Matamoros. (At least one of my early career plans panned out.) I am very excited about it and am looking forward to the added structure and professional responsibilities, yet I will still have a lot of time to take care of my family and my home. Until then, I plan to savor my freedom and remind myself, as my husband often does, that I am contributing… just in a different way than I thought I would.
Thank you for reading!